Megaseller: Rumors

Rumors: Fleetwood Mac Warner Brothers, 1977

The example is Rumors by Fleetwood Mac.

side oneside two
1 Second Hand News
(Lindsay Buckingham)
1 The Chain
(Buckingham, Fleetwood, C. McVie, J. McVie, Nicks)
2 Dreams
(Stevie Nicks)
2 You Make Loving Fun
(Christine McVie)
3 Never Going Back Again
(Lindsay Buckingham)
3 I Don’t Want To Know
(Stevie Nicks)
4 Don’t Stop
(Christine McVie)
4 Oh, Daddy
(Christine McVie)
5 Go Your Own Way
(Lindsay Buckingham)
5 Gold Dust Woman
(Stevie Nicks)
6 Songbird
(Christine McVie)
Rumors: original album

This relates to the “popular crossover albums” group. The thing is, it has sold 47 million copies.

Impressive? Yes … but note that it has sold 20 million copies SINCE 1997, when it was already twenty years old.

A confession. I saw the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac more than once, and thought them a terminally dull, plodding band with a fluently beautiful guitarist in Peter Green and a very boring catalogue apart from the marvellous but atypical hits, Albatross, Oh, Well and Green Manalishi. I’d also seen John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers live several times. I really didn’t like version one, and I still don’t.

I took only a cursory interest in the intervening years, and sat up and took notice as soon as Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham joined. I consider this to be a separate and stratospherically more interesting band altogether. It’s odd to name and base a band around a largely non-songwriting rhythm section, but they had … it was Peter Green’s choice right at the beginning. He was self-effacing and did not want to be the star or name.John McVie hadn’t yet agreed to join and he thought the name might persuade … or force … him.

Something had happened to John McVie y the mid-70s, who turned from a standard (aka boring) bass player into a guy with an incredible and unique spring to his playing. None of it is hard, but it’s not the notes it’s all in the style and rhythm. I hugely admire his playing and when I saw them a few years ago, McVie was the only one without a shadow musician in the background supporting him. Mick Fleetwood is a fine drummer, but you need writers. They already had Christine McVie, but as soon as you put Stevie Nicks next to her, her writing accelerated. Add Lindsay Buckingham.Now they had three powerful songwriters in the band.

The first album from the new incarnation, Fleetwood Mac (1975), leapt out of the speakers and set out its stall with Lindsay’s Monday Morning. Lindsay established that the lad sang higher than the girls with I’m So Afraid which gave him a chance to show off his guitar playing. I did feel when I saw them live that he sees himself as a Hendrix competitor.

The first two releases, Warm Ways and Over My Head were Christine’s songs. Over My Head was the new band’s first hit (US #20), but her selection for me was the crisp, keyboard led Say You Love Me (US #11)with its swooping bass line.

The third single, Stevie Nicks’ Welsh witch  Rhiannon was conjured up, with a US#11 chart placing.  Rhiannon had that repetitive teasing guitar figure, the soft thudding drums and sprung bass that defines their sound. The hippy mystical lyric is the keynote and it was their first UK hit (UK #46) albeit a minor one. Crystal was a direct transfer from a planned second Buckingham-Nicks album.

The stage was set for the next release. The coke-fuelled, no money spared, partner-switching sequel is one of rock’s enduring soap operas, or possibly urban myths.

Gallery, Rumors singles … click to enlarge

Rumors (1977) is one of the best-selling albums of all time (UK, US, Australia, Canada #1). Four hit singles … Go Your Own Way (US #10, UK #38), Dreams (US #1, UK #24), Don’t Stop (US #3, UK,#32) and You Make Loving Fun (US #9, UK #45). The pattern is clear … they were way bigger in America than in Britain, or maybe we just bought the album. There’s not a track I wouldn’t include. They may be three-fifths British but they stuck to the American spelling, though NOT on the text on the 45s … it’s “from Rumours.”

My second favourite Fleetwood Mac track of all time is Dreams (Stevie Nicks). I used to take my daughter to school to the sound of New Kids On The Block every day in the early 90s. We car pooled, and the other dad was less accommodating than me, and so got my daughter hooked on Rumors, a great relief to me. Dreams was her favourite too, but my son, also in the car, went into paroxysms of fury at the line Thunder only happens when it’s raining, pointing out that it is a meteorological fallacy. At twelve, you can’t compare Bob Dylan’s lost in the rain in Juarez to explore the metaphor. On which the double entendre of women they will come and they will go surely references All Along The Watchtower’s the women came and went, but given Stevie’s seductive purr, does it better.

There was a point in my life in 1977 when I spent twenty minutes in a traffic jam every morning at the same lights. It would have been Tony Blackburn who for most of a year seemed to play Fleetwood Mac in that traffic jam, and it was You Make Loving Fun that brings it straight back. I also still call the song Miracles instead of its real title. Christine’s Songbird is exquisite and subtle, and has had a long life outside Fleetwood Mac in dozens of cover versions, notably Eva Cassidy, Rita Coolidge and Willie Nelson.

The three writers share my accolades, because my other favourite from the album is Lindsay Buckingham’s Go Your Own Way, but here it’s the women in the chorus that make it so forceful. On Never Going Back Again we get Lindsay’s best country guitar-pickin’.

The Chain credits all five band members and it survives on so many live sets. Maybe shared credits help. The vocal switching points to the soap opera behind the making of the album. Lindsay’s picking on one channel and power guitar on the other is a signature. It’s even got a crunchy bass solo interrupted by Lindsay’s “approaching train” guitar. It’s a song that works especially well in live versions.

My three friends who run second-hand record stores have all commented that Rumors LPs never sit in the rack for more than a day. That’s why I included it. A few months after those comments, I used it as a question at a Record Fair. Dealers agree … Rumors is just about the easiest album to sell quickly of any that come into the shop. It helps that we’re mainly talking about the £10 to £20 price range. Again and again the comment was, ‘It’s mainly younger buyers.’

A mint 1977 copy can fetch £40 with the original gatefold sleeve.

Discogs median is £10.50,. Its highest sale is £18 (Very Good).

Rumors: Fleetwood Mac, De Luxe Edition, Rhino, 2013

I have the 2013 box set as well – vinyl, 4 CDs, DVD and bits and bobs. Not listed on Rare Record Guide. Discogs have a picture, but none have been sold. You wouldn’t want to sell it, I guess and no one who bought it has, at least on discogs. Amazon has one at £84 used. (I paid £20 for my pristine secondhand copy in fact!)

So Rumors is of interest because it still sells like hot cakes on vinyl, NOT because it’s valuable. This is the day to day business of record collecting.